An adult cat has 30 permanent teeth while a kitten has 26 baby teeth.
Like people, cats are not born with teeth. The baby or deciduous teeth of kittens begin to erupt between two to four weeks of age, with the premolars (the teeth located at the back of the mouth) being the last to erupt.
At around four to seven months, a kitten begins losing his baby teeth as his new set of teeth arrive. Most cat owners do not see their kittens lose teeth because these are lost either while their pets are playing or eating.
By the time your cat celebrates his first birthday, he should have a complete set of permanent teeth.
How many teeth do cats need?
There is no exact number of teeth that cats need to eat and survive. Ideally, once your pet’s permanent teeth are complete, he should be able to keep them all.
However, if your cat loses a few teeth, he can still eat food, including kibble. To compensate for tooth loss, he will use his tongue which is covered with tiny spines known as papilla.
When a cat is experiencing dental pain, he will avoid using the affected tooth and instead use his tongue to help break down and shovel food down into his tummy.
Is it normal for cats to lose their teeth?
Yes, it is normal for cats to lose teeth. Like people, cats have two sets of teeth. That means that cats will start losing teeth once their permanent teeth erupt.
However, there are instances wherein a cat does not lose his baby teeth. This can result in the abnormal position of the new teeth that come out. In turn, this can lead to a host of other problems, including bite problems and the development of plaque and tartar.
The best remedy for this problem is to have the baby teeth removed by the vet to make room for the permanent teeth.
Apart from losing baby teeth, a cat may also lose his permanent teeth due to dental disease. Although cats do not suffer from cavities like dogs and people, they can suffer from dental disease.
Left unchecked, plaque can lead to the formation of both calculus and tartar. Without proper interventions like dental scaling, your cat can lose some of his teeth.
Do cat teeth grow back?
No, cats cannot grow back the teeth that they have lost. Once their permanent teeth arrive, they cannot replace these when they get lost. This is why cat owners must take an active part in keeping their pets’ chompers healthy and in good condition.
Unfortunately, cats are quite good at hiding dental pain and other similar issues. Many cats will resist getting an oral examination from their owners. This is most likely because when the affected tooth is exposed to the air, the nerve inside can become quite painful.
Fortunately, there are a few symptoms that can help you determine if your cat is suffering from dental pain. These include:
- Bad breath
- Appetite loss
- Swollen or bleeding gums
Even if your cat is suffering from dental pain, he will still attempt to eat, driven by his hunger. But after eating, he can end up vomiting. Some cats suffering from dental pain will come near their food bowls. But instead of eating, they will just growl.
Common dental problems in cats
Like people and dogs, cats can also suffer from dental problems. Here is a list of the most common dental problems in cats:
A cat with gingivitis has inflamed gums resulting from the buildup of plaque. Plaque is a film that serves as a home for bacteria.
When your cat has excellent oral health, he is not affected by these bacteria. In fact, these microorganisms can be beneficial. But when the population of these bacteria goes up and they reach the base of the teeth, that is when the problem begins.
Once plaque breaches the base of the teeth, your cat’s immune system begins attacking the bacteria in the plaque. This is what causes the inflammation. The bacteria can then damage the gums and teeth.
Left unchecked, gingivitis can progress into a condition called periodontitis.
Cats with periodontitis are at great risk of losing their teeth. In periodontitis, the tissues found in the tooth, gums, and underlying bones are weakened by the bacteria.
When caught early, the vet can still save the affected teeth through scaling and polishing. But for teeth that are severely affected, the best course of action would be to extract these.
3. Tooth resorption
Tooth resorption occurs when the damage to a tooth begins from the inside. To date, experts do not know the underlying cause of this condition.
Tooth resorption can be quite painful for affected cats. If your cat is suffering from this, you will notice a few behavioral changes like irritability and turning his head while eating. Other symptoms include drooling and loss of appetite.
Initially, your vet will try to manage your cat’s pain to enable him to eat properly again. But if the lesions have come to the tooth’s crown and your cat is experiencing pain and discomfort, he may recommend extraction.
Training your cat to accept toothbrushing
Toothbrushing is your cat’s first defense against dental problems. But as many cat owners know, brushing a cat’s teeth is by no means an easy task. This is why it is critical to start this habit while your pet is a kitten.
Although your cat may dislike getting his teeth clean, there are a few things that you can do to tolerate it.
Start by making your cat familiar with the scent of his toothbrush and toothpaste. Leave these items in an area that your cat frequents. Allow him to investigate these items for at least a week. You can also give your pet a taste of his toothpaste. If your cat tastes the toothpaste, offer him a reward to create a positive association.
The following week, put some toothpaste on your finger and dab the toothpaste on your pet’s teeth. Follow this up by offering your pet a few treats as a reward.
Once your cat is okay with toothpaste being dabbed on his teeth, you can take things further by attempting to familiarize him with his toothbrush. Again, put some toothpaste on the toothbrush and allow your cat to smell and investigate. Reward him with a treat if he licks the toothpaste from the toothbrush. If he is shy, you can dab the toothpaste on his teeth using a finger.
For the final stage of your pet’s toothbrushing training, you can begin cleaning his teeth. Start by baring your cat’s teeth by moving his lips. Once the teeth are exposed, brush his teeth and gums by moving at a 45-degree angle. Concentrate on the area between the teeth and gums. Take note that you do not need to brush the inside surface of the teeth because your cat’s tongue can clean it.
Teeth for predators
Cats have 30 permanent teeth that are designed to aid them in hunting.
A close look at a feline’s teeth will tell you that he is a carnivore. Unlike some of the teeth that people have, most of a cat’s teeth are made for cutting through and tearing through flesh.
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